Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bulgarian bird of paradise bread

  • 1 tablespoon instant active dry yeast (not rapid rise)
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 4 large eggs plus 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup feta or brinza cheese, finely crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 thin slice kashkaval or Cheddar cheese, cut into 4 triangles
  • 4 (1/2-inch-by-1 1/2-inch) rectangles of ham
  • 4 pitted cured black olives
  • 1 star-shaped piece of red bell pepper
Bulgarian bird of paradise bread"Bulgarian Bird of Paradise Bread" is a yeast bread that gets its name from the decorative placement of cheese, ham, olives and red pepper on the top.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, water and flour. Add yogurt, 4 eggs, salt and feta or brinza cheese. Switch to the dough hook and knead unil a soft, sticky, slightly lumpy (because of the cheese) dough forms, about 7 minutes.
Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover with greased plastic, set in a warm place and let rise until doubled.
Punch down dough and place in a greased 8-inch springform pan that is 3 inches high. Brush liberally with remaining beaten egg mixed with milk.

To decorate, arrange kashkaval or Cheddar cheese triangles on top to form a square. Place ham and olives in between cheese and place the star of red pepper in the center. Let rise another 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake bread 15 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees. Cool a few minutes in pan, then turn out of pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
Adapted from "The Balkan Cookbook" by Trish Davies (Anness Publishing, 2000)

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